So today I started working on my first gimmick profile. This one was a request in the comments, and it seemed too perfect to pass up: Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler is a great character to start working on because there’s a ton of his work out there to explore and because he’s had a run as both a heel and a face in WWE. Starting out with such a solid gimmick, however, has also helped to reveal the issues with my project. So I’m still adjusting.
What I learned from watching a lot (A. LOT.) of matches and promo videos today is that a list is basically useless for this project. This isn’t about facts or details within the company. It’s not really about championships or feuds. All of those things have been put upon a person by WWE. What we’re really talking about is the intersection between the abilities of the performer and the versatility of the character.
I really am glad I started with Dolph Ziggler. I got to watch a lot of great matches (eventually stopped at this year’s Payback match against Sheamus. Too much blood makes me pass out!) and was even reminded that he is not a bad promo. He is definitely entertaining.
The Show-Off character is perfect as a heel. He thinks he’s the best and basically behaves like a cocky prick. He is someone who takes advantage of people, of his relationships, to get what he wants. This opportunistic tendency has actually bled into the babyface version of Dolph Ziggler. You can see it in his matches – he still lies in wait and will sneak a move on an opponent, though he’s not actually breaking any rules at the time. As a babyface, that characteristic plays out more as foresight than conniving. Dolph Ziggler is a fun character to watch, whether he wins or loses. He appears natural in a leader role and can rally troops. He also is interesting to have on a team that he’s not leading, as he’s basically destined to break out as a star in the match.
As a performer, Nick Nemeth is very talented. He really understands timing and how to read a crowd. When you watch him interact with a live audience, you can tell there is a give and take. However, when Nemeth gives backstage interviews they can end up as runaway trains because he has no one’s reaction to read. Nemeth requires some kind of response to gauge where to take his unscripted dialogue next. His in-ring work is compelling to watch and usually paced well. He appears to be in control, even when he does not have the upper hand or is going over in a match. His ability to read and respond to audiences is apparent in his matches, just as it is in his promos. He’s also willing to do fun things to make people laugh, whether it is intentionally as a babyface or “unintentionally” as a heel.
Nemeth’s ability to portray a heel or babyface within the same character makes him extremely valuable. The Ziggler character becomes malleable in terms of the company’s greater storytelling needs. From the perspective of the Ziggler character, it is best to move him fluidly from heel to face and back again. This shouldn’t be done constantly, but as the company’s need for more heels or more faces ebbs and flows, Ziggler’s storyline should reflect that need.
As an individual who has such an easy and believable connection with the audience, why not use Ziggler as a stand-in for WWE itself? When the WWE audience is giving the company what it needs to propel its storylines forward, Ziggler is a babyface. When the audience is at odds with the storyline, Ziggler turns heel. Through very tight writing, these adjustments can be made subtly, especially with the fluidity of the character. When the audience is ready to have someone to cheer, Ziggler can be there for them to cheer on. And when the audience wants to boo, a solid and vicious turn could provide them with an outlet.
At the end of my analysis, I’m going to give ratings. These are based on the following criteria: character versatility, performer talent, how often the character should be involved in major storylines, and whether or not the character could bring something to a title.
Ziggler is an obvious A. The character is versatile, the performer is talented, the character could be used in major stories and, (depending on the depth of the storytelling) could certainly bring something to any of the current title pictures.
What the Ziggler character really shows us is the need for WWE to create one cohesive story image for the company. For example, a complaint (or sometimes just a note) I hear often – and have even made myself – is that The Authority seems to be entirely focused on the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. They occasionally become involved in the Diva’s division, but rarely in title pictures like the United States championship or the Tag Team championships. This creates not only the sense that these things are not important, it also creates the impression that these things don’t exist in the same universe. That’s a problem, a very big and totally fixable problem.
I’m not suggesting that The Authority become further involved in the storylines we see on TV. I’ll talk more about my feelings on The Authority when I do analysis for Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. What I am suggesting is that if there is a larger plan at work that keeps all of the titles seemingly connected and in the same universe, WWE should be able to smoothly move gimmicks from feud to feud, or in and out of storylines as necessary. A character like Dolph Ziggler is the queen in the chess game of WWE storylines, with more possible moves than anyone else as he navigates in and out of other people’s plots.
Knowing there is already such a useful character and performer in the ranks, maybe we should move on to some more stagnant characters, who provide a solid framework within which characters like Ziggler can stir up some excitement. Don’t forget to leave your suggestions for gimmicks to chart in the comments!